Rick Stansbury is 4-12 all-time versus Kentucky as Mississippi State's head coach Photo by: Courtesy of MSU athletics department
February 20, 2012 6:30:00 PM
In preparation of his team's second matchup versus the number-one ranked team in the country, Mississippi State University men's basketball coach Rick Stansbury sat down with the media for his longest session of the 2011-12 season.
Only once with Rick Stansbury at the helm has Mississippi State hosted a top-ranked team - Florida in 2007 but it will now be twice when the No. 1 Kentucky (26-1, 12-0) come to Humphrey Coliseum.
In the logic of the 14-year coach, Stansbury doesn't think all the controversy about his teams' three-game losing streak would be an issue if the Bulldogs if they could've made some plays to reverse those results.
"I have confidence in us, that's for sure," Stansbury said. "Guys, it's a fine line. We wouldn't have even been thinking about having these conversations if we make one more play in two games. That's what a fine line it is. There's two games we lose in overtime, it's one play. We wouldn't even be having these conversations - talking about leadership - we'd be totally on the other side of the fence. When it doesn't go exactly the way we don't want it to go. And it doesn't very often for every team. You've got to survive that rough spell and you've got to stay focused. They all count as one win and one loss, unfortunately you've got a Kentucky at home that nobody has beaten all year and it's so important to protect your home court and nobody's done that yet. That's our challenge."
Stansbury had said that the Bulldogs (19-8, 6-6 in Southeastern Conference) were the underdogs in road games against LSU and Auburn last week. However, he does not maintain that position for Tuesday night's matchup with Kentucky.
"What do you think? We're different than Kentucky," Stansbury said. "We're totally different than Kentucky. If we were Kentucky going on the road, we'd be the favored team. Kentucky's gone on the road, everywhere they've gone, they've been favored. Home or away. That's what makes them special."
In today's media session, I asked Stansbury if he felt the players were still listening to him and the rest of the coaching staff despite the losing streak and MSU's coach dismissed that as a concern for his team right now in arguably the most high-profile game of the 2011-12 season.
"We talk about that Georgia game," Stansbury said. "I thought it was a team effort, I thought every one was a step slow. LSU? I thought we came ready to play. I thought we were good in that first half. Dee Bost was good. We just didn't finish the game. At Auburn was a different situaiton, we were trying to do some things that we hadn't done in a while from a rotation standpoint. We played hard against Auburn. The game gets pretty simple sometimes. We've had as many open shots as we've had in a while and just didn't make some. You don't want to blame it just on shooting but boy I thought our kids competed, especially being down a body."
Stansbury, like a lot of college basketball coaches, analysts and fans, is very impressed with Kentucky center Anthony Davis' game on both ends of the floor. The freshman is averaging 13.9 points per game, 9.7 rebounds per game and 4.9 blocks per game this season.
"No one yet has taken Davis out of anything yet," Stansbury said. "It's very obvious we want to go at him and getting him out the game in foul trouble. Because he's so smart, he'll back off after you and still get that blocked shot against him. He got in foul trouble early (against Ole Miss) and didn't play but eight minutes. He changes the game more than any one player in a long time.
I've never seen anybody change the game in so many different ways around that rim offensively and his defensively abilities."
In order to handle Davis, Stansbury will need a healthy Renardo Sidney (10.4 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game) Tuesday night to have any chance to pull off the upset but the junior center is battling back spasms that kept him out of the 65-55 loss at Auburn.
Before Stansbury walked in the floor, his point guard Dee Bost was convinced Sidney would play against the No. 1 Wildcats but the Bulldogs coach wasn't entirely sure of that fact less than 10 minutes later.
"I hope you're right," Stansbury said. "I don't have the answer to that right now. We just had a walkthrough, really didn't do a whole lot so we haven't done anything yet. He hasn't done anything since last Tuesday when we played. Today we'll see where he's at, I don't have the answer to that. We'll know here in a minute. Out at practice will figure it out a little more. That's a good sign he's telling somebody he can play. I like that."
Asked if he has a memorable game in his 14 years playing Kentucky while the head coach in Starkville, Stansbury didn't hesitate to drum up the memories of the overtime defeat in the 2010 SEC tournament championship game where Demarcus Cousins hit a putback with .1 seconds left on the clock to send the game to an extra five minutes.
"There's one that'll always stand out," Stansbury said. "You guys know which one that one is. It stands out, and I'll feel the pain of it for a long time. One of them. You know which one that is, don't you? There's some pain from that one because there was so much on the line. It wasn't just winning a - there'll never be a game again, ever, that there was so much lost in one play. There was an SEC championship, NCAA tournament and whatever else came after that - in one play. Has there ever been a game ever? Nah. That's an easy one. I don't think about it, I don't try to think about it. But if you're talking about Kentucky, that one stands out. I think that one stands out in everybody's mind still."
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